Sports rental business bylaw passes third reading

“In my view this is a formality that is framing up the wording and the policy to match what has occurred rather organically.”

BANFF – Sports equipment rental businesses will now be allowed in hotels across the tourist town.

Following a public hearing on March 28, council passed second and final reading of an amended bylaw to open this up for hotels with the space to do so throughout town.

Councillor Barb Pelham, who sits on the Municipal Planning Commission, said commissioners discussed the issue in great detail a few months ago and she has no major concerns.

“I think we all recognize that over time sports equipment rental has occurred in a variety of locations in the hotel sector over the years, perhaps not officially, perhaps not sanctioned by bylaw,” she said.

“Nonetheless, it has occurred, and in my view, this is a formality that is framing up the wording and the policy to match what has occurred rather organically.”

The proposed change was triggered by Black Tie Ski Rentals of Banff wanting to set up a storefront location for a ski and bike rental business in the Banff Park Lodge on Lynx Street.

Until now, the land use bylaw has allowed sports equipment rental businesses to operate only in the downtown (CD) district and in the industrial compound. The amendments mean this type of business service is now a discretionary use in hotels in the commercial accommodation (CA), Banff Springs Hotel (CB) and Tunnel Mountain (CT) land use districts.

The changes won’t come into effect until the federal minister for environment and climate, who is also responsible for Parks Canada, signs off on the bylaw.

Jason Funnell, owner of Black Tie Ski Rentals of Banff, said the pandemic has shown a need to adopt a more diversified approach to his business, which started as a ski rental delivery business.

“These sports equipment rental services are targeting people that stay in hotels,” he said during the March 28 public hearing before council. “It allows us to remain competitive in that destination travel market.”

The bylaw change was supported by a handful of other businesses, however, the Banff Springs Hotel expressed some concerns.

Steve Sandercott, director of hotels for the Oxford Properties Group representing the Banff Springs, said he believes the amendments would result in intense municipal planning commission review and permit processes for otherwise “inconsequential everyday operational adjustments” by retailers.

“Retail offerings in hotels, particularly in the Banff Springs, are an expected complimentary amenity for hotel guests,” he said, adding the proposed changes would impede a hotel operator’s ability to respond to such change in a reasonable and timely fashion.

“It is commonplace to see small changes annually or even seasonally as guest expectations evolve and trends change. We seek to optimize our hospitality services accordingly.”

To address concerns, council opted to make convenience retail store, general retail store and personal service shop permitted uses.

Mayor Corrie DiManno, who said she did not want to see additional red tape, was successful in her amendment.

“It just seems those still remain good ancillary uses to hotels,” she said.

“I am worried we might inadvertently be creating more process or red tape where there doesn’t need to be, where there hasn’t traditionally been.”

Councillor Ram declared a pecuniary conflict of interest on this issue because she is owner and manager of Snowtips-Bactrax on Bear Street. Coun. Ted Christensen missed the public hearing so could not take part in the vote.

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